Published by Harlequin Desire on May 9th 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
The matchmaker meets her match...in one very persistent tycoon!
Secretive matchmaker to the rich and famous, Lydia Whitney prefers to stay behind the scenes. But after one mistake, rich resort developer Ian McNeill is hot on her trail, and he's more attractive--and persistent--than ever before.
Ian can't believe it when he figures out who's messing with his family: a woman who has deceived--and seduced--him before. What's her agenda? And why can't he resist her? He'll get the answers to all his questions, if Lydia agrees to his convenient marriage proposal. But once she's in his arms again, will he let her go?
The Magnate's Marriage Merger is part of The McNeill Magnates trilogy.
Ian had almost reached Lydia’s side when she sent him a look that sizzled over him like a lover’s tongue.
The sensation was so tangible he had to halt his forward progress through the shallow surf. No way had he read her expression correctly. He was mixing up his own emotions with hers—seeing what he wanted to see in her bright green eyes. His heart slugged harder in his chest, urging him toward her, while he fought the need with all his might.
She’d just shared some hurtful memories he never knew about, so no way in hell was she thinking what he was thinking.
Get it together.
“Lydia.” He forced an even tone into his voice, reminding himself that good men didn’t confuse compassion with sex. “I’m so sorry you went through that as a teen.”
He reached for her, cupping her cheek in one hand even as he maintained a bit of space between them. Her eyes slid closed at his touch, her cheek tilting into his palm in a way that urged him to give more physical comfort.
Reigniting the war within.
Gritting his teeth against all the ways he wanted to surround her body with his—protect her, pleasure her—Ian shifted closer to slide an arm around her waist. He drew her against him, fitting her to his side, resting his cheek on top of her silky hair. The scent of coconut drifted up from her skin. His mouth watered.
“I promise you,” he assured her, stroking along the soft skin of her upper arm while he stared out to sea, “if anyone dares to initiate a story about you that isn’t true, I will sue their company into bankruptcy.”
“They will say I married you for money.” She pulled back to look him in the eye. “The same way my mother pursued my father.”
“We both know nothing could be further from the truth.” He’d tried to include a financial settlement in their contract, but she’d refused. Had she done so because she anticipated that kind of negative press?
“Your family will have their doubts about my intentions in this marriage. As will all of Manhattan. I received a famously small settlement from my father upon his death.” She knotted the silk of her skirt at one knee so she didn’t need to hold on to the fabric to keep it out of the water. “There will be questions about my motives for marrying you and the press speculation will only fuel the fire.”
He’d seen that trick with a skirt hem in Rangiroa a few times, and he liked this side of her that was a little messier.
“My family has faith in my judgment.” He’d already told them to stand down where she was concerned. “And that means they will trust you.”
When she didn’t answer right away, he noticed that she was staring out at the horizon where the sun was sliding the rest of the way into the sea. She’d told him once that she liked to make a wish on it before it disappeared.
“I wish you could trust me to make you happy for the next twelve months.” He got the words out just before the final glowing orange arc vanished.
The sky glowed pink and purple in the aftermath, the ocean reflecting the colors in watery ripples while a heron and a pair of white ibis flew overhead.
“I don’t think that’s such a good thing to wish for.” She turned to face him, her exposed skin reflecting the sunset hues.
“No,” she told him flatly. “Investing too much in this marriage will only make things all the more complicated when our year together is done.” She folded her arms across her chest and stared down into the water where they stood. “We both need to remember this is a business arrangement. Nothing more.”
“One thing doesn’t have to preclude the other, does it?” He turned his attention to her arm, where the strap of her dress flirted with the edge of her shoulder. “We can be happy and respect the business arrangement, too.”
Maybe this time together would help cure him of his preoccupation with her. He’d barely dated since they’d split.
“I’ve been thinking about that.” She glanced down at the water where the gentle swell of the tide lapped at her ankles. She lifted one foot and skimmed it over the surface in a slow arc in front of her. “About the benefits of marriage.”
His throat dried up. He stayed very still to keep from touching her the way he wanted to, convincing her with his hands and his mouth how beneficial this relationship could be for both of them. He’d promised her she could set the pace with any kind of physical relationship and he wouldn’t earn her trust anytime soon if he took that power out of her hands.
But the temptation to draw her into the water—into his arms—was so strong he could barely breathe.
“Like Costa Rican vacations?” He tried for a light tone but failed, his whole body fueled with a biological imperative to take his bride to his bed.
“This is definitely a treat.” She quit her game of drawing her toes through the water, turning to face him in air that felt suddenly too still. “But I was thinking more along the lines of how—” she bit her lip for a second before pressing on “—satisfying we both found our previous relationship.”
The giveaway is open INTL and the prize includes a signed copy of Wishes Under First Light, notecards, notebook and cute post-its.
~~Reviewed by Monique~~
Quinn McNeill had asked brother Ian to look up a matchmaker who caused Quinn problems a few months before, Ian hired a private investigator, and he is stunned to see that the mystery matchmaker is his former lover Lydia Whitney. Lydia had broken up with Ian when she learned that he had a profile on a dating website, and at the time, she made a rash decision. It was Ian’s grandfather who had put it there: The McNeills’ grandfather insists the boys marry if they want their share of the family business. Ian has learned that Lydia, an interior designer, will be working in the company’s resort in South Beach, so Ian asks to handle business matters over there and get even for the mess with Quinn. However, Ian hadn’t counted on his attraction to Lydia not having dimmed; Lydia is also very much attracted to Ian, but she feels betrayed, and she’s had some serious issues in the meantime. Ian strongly suggests that it would be in Lydia’s best interests to agree to a marriage of convenience, as it would solve both their problems. Lydia doesn’t like the idea very much, but she can’t see another way to avoid a scandal.
THE MAGNATE’S MARRIAGE MERGER is a terrific take on the marriage of convenience in a contemporary setting, done just as brilliantly as the first book of the McNeill Magnates series, THE MAGNATE’S MAIL-ORDER BRIDE, whose subject is obvious. Ms. Rock’s eloquent prose had me living vicariously in exotic locales such as South Beach and Costa Rica, and in the world of the privileged few. The McNeills might be billionaires, but they don’t act as spoiled, entitled rich boys; they work for their money. The conflicts were entirely logical and believable, the air is cleared promptly, and there is no tiptoeing around the issues. Ian had been a bit of an enigma in the first book, he’s a quiet man, and we got to know him better. Lydia’s backstory was unusual and heartbreaking at times. Ian, as Quinn before, is a beautiful hero just the way I like them; not a cartoon alpha, but a real, reasonable man, who is willing to work for what and who matters.
There is quite a bit of tension, sexual and otherwise, but Ms. Rock never makes it unpleasant and at no time does the reader have to suspend her sense of disbelief. I also loved that in one instance, both characters are adult enough not to repeat an unfortunate mistake. Ian cares for Lydia, and it shows. It’s not all smooth sailing, but the rekindled romance is going relatively well, until the author Rock drops a major bombshell on us. And dear readers, this is called meticulously structuring one’s story and carefully planning one’s story arc, especially as when you look back, the signs were there in the previous book; Joanne Rock knew where she was going right from the start: no snags, and a stunning surprise. I know I’ve mentioned THE MAGNATE’S MAIL-ORDER BRIDE, the first book, a few times (and I consider it an absolute must-read), but still THE MAGNATE’S MARRIAGE MERGER can totally be read as a standalone. Joanne Rock has created an amazing series in the McNeill Magnates, giving tired old tropes fresh spins, and doing an incredible job. Am I impressed the second time around? You bet!
I voluntarily reviewed an advanced reader copy of this book.